This year, as we gather for the 2023 South Carolina Synod Assembly, we are excited to highlight and learn from ministries and leaders serving right here within our own Synod as their ministry connects to the theme, I see Jesus.
We will have the absolute joy of hearing from Pastor Chris Christopher, Pastor Kara Stewart, Pastor James Henricks, and Pastor Mike Shakelford as our keynote speakers. They will each share about their unique ministry contexts and how the Spirit has been leading and guiding through it all. Our keynotes will share specific takeaways that congregations can apply to their own context to serve their communities, both inside and outside the church walls, in unique and Spirit lead ways. The wealth of knowledge and experience that will be sharing with our Synod from the stage is a tremendous gift and we’re thankful for their willingness to lead and share where God has called them and encourage and challenge us to widen the spaces in which we too see Jesus.
You won’t want to miss it!
Meet the Speakers
THE REV. CHRIS CHRISTOPHER
I See Jesus in Unexpected Places
Pastor at Immanuel Lutheran Church, Greenwood.
I was born in Burlington NC to a single mother, and put up for adoption when I was 2 years old. In case you are wondering, my first name was already Christopher, and I was, two years later, adopted by the Christophers. Ha!
During my school years, my greatest joy was playing trumpet (I still play some). My closest friend was my maternal grandmother. She raised me in the faith, and taught me about unconditional, steadfast love through our relationship. My college years at Elon College are my “wilderness years”, as I was lost completely in everything the 70’s were about. I dropped out my Senior year and enlisted in the USMC. Later I was able to finish my degree and was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant. In the following 3 years, I served as a Combat Engineer platoon commander in Okinawa, being deployed to mainland Japan, South Korea, and to Tinian/Guam USA. I grew up some and learned a lot about myself.
My wife, Theresa, and I met during my last year of active duty, and were married 4 months after our blind date! That was 39 years ago in March! She has helped me to continue to grow up. We have 2 adult children and 3 grandsons. What a joy those boys are!
Since graduating LTSS in 1994, I have served in 3 parishes in western NC, served the Metro NY Synod as Executive Director of Koinonia Outdoor Ministries, and the Texas Louisiana Gulf Coast Synod in New Orleans. We retired in July 2021 and moved back to NC to be closer to the 2 younger grandsons. I never got around to submitting my retirement paperwork, and 8 weeks into my “retirement” I was invited to interview with Immanuel in Greenwood, SC. What a God Thing that was! I have now been serving alongside them as their pastor since October 2021.
Here at Immanuel, we operate a weekly Soup Kitchen, and a twice weekly Food Bank. We have a team to visit the Greenwood County Jail every Thursday night providing Bible Study for the inmates, and are now in the process of developing a weekly meeting with those inmates, after they are released, to help them create a new future.
For the past couple of years, we provide support, community, and love through Restoration Chapel, for Kinard Manor Women’s Addiction Recovery House. I serve as their Chaplain. And beginning in April, we will also be housing at Immanuel, Trinity Recovery Services (a ministry of Lutheran Services of the Carolinas) to provide additional recovery resources for Greenwood County.
We just completed raising the funds, painting, purchasing furnishings and other necessities 2 rooms a our Greenwood DSS office to provide a space for children caught in the foster care system. It is a kid-friendly, comfortable place for them to have some privacy, away from the hustle and bustle of the DSS office. We are continuing to support with clothing, snack food, and gift cards for restaurants for the staff to feed the children as they await their foster parents.
For now, I am loving it, but I am still not sure what I want to do when I finish growing up! Peace – Chris
THE REV. KARA STEWART
I See Jesus in Our Spaces
Rev. Kara Stewart has served as Executive Director of Neighbors Together since January of 2020 and has led the organization through the challenge of the pandemic into a new season of growth. She began her ordained ministry in 2002 in Charleston, serving Redeemer West Ashley, St. Barnabas downtown and St. Luke’s Summerville. In 2009 she took a call to Living Christ Lutheran in Flagstaff, AZ and later served as Campus Pastor at Texas Lutheran University, located south of Austin. Pastor Kara is passionate about helping people discern God’s call to use their gifts to help people in need. Pastor Kara is a graduate of Furman University in Greenville, S.C. and holds a Master of Divinity from Trinity Lutheran Seminary in Columbus, Ohio. She is a certified Kripalu yoga instructor and a Contemplative Prayer Group Leader (Shalem Institute.) Her son, Ethan, is a senior at Wando High School and plays the bassoon for the Bands of Wando and snare drum for Charles Towne Percussion.
THE REV. JAMES HENRICKS
I See Jesus in those who are Different From Me
Rev. James Henricks currently serves as the Director for Evangelical Mission in the South Carolina synod. Prior to entering ministry, Rev. Henricks received his M.Div from Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary and an MTh from the University of Helsinki’s Religion, Conflict, and Dialogue program. He has since participated in seminars focusing on conflict management and resolution with the Lutheran World Federation, culminating in a contribution to the LWF’s publication Blessed are the Peacemakers. He and his wife are foster parents through LIRS and Lutheran Services Carolinas’ transitional foster care for unaccompanied minors. In addition, he serves his local community as a volunteer firefighter and chaplain in Friendly Fire Department and the City of Newberry Fire department.
THE REV. MIKE SHACKELFORD
I See Jesus in Our Community
Pastor Mike Shackelford has been an ELCA pastor for 26 years. He has served two congregations in Florida, did a year chaplain residency at Tampa General Hospital, served two congregations in South Carolina, served as a chaplain for Lutheran Hospice. Currently Pastor Mike serves as the chaplain for Affinity Hospice in Greenville, and as the Interim Pastor for St. Matthew Lutheran in Pomaria. Pastor Mike is married to his college sweetheart, Carolyn who is an elementary school teacher. They both reside in Moore, SC. They have two young adult children. Megan, an elementary school teacher who lives in Tampa, FL and Nathan, a 3rd year student at Lenoir-Rhyne University.